SafeFood© and Egg Safety
Here we go again – some media questioning whether there is a need to store fresh shell eggs in the refrigerator. The latest buzz is due to a “research study” commissioned by the United Kingdom Daily Mail news article and paraphrased by MSN (http://now.msn.com/is-it-safe-to-store-your-eggs-on-the-counter-instead-of-in-the-fridge; from this can access Daily Mail story in entirety). Here is a short blurb taken from the conclusion of the Daily Mail story:
“The Mail commissioned the West Yorkshire-based FoodTest Laboratories to compare batches of Lion-branded British eggs bought from Tesco. FoodTest provides the food and drink industry with government-approved laboratory analysis to ensure the safety, quality and legality of their products. The company kept two batches of eggs for a fortnight, one at room temperature, the other at a typical fridge temperature of 6c.
Samples from both batches were regularly tested for nasties such as E.coli, the superbug staphylococcus aureus, salmonella, listeria and campylobacter.The results, taken at the start point of the test, at the end of the first week and at the end of the second week, were all the same. There was no difference whatsoever between the two batches. Both remained bacteria-free. Jay Tolley, the operations and quality manager at FoodTest confirmed that where safety is concerned: ‘There is no advantage in keeping the eggs refrigerated as opposed to storing them at ambient room temperature.’ The results of our admittedly small-scale but highly scientific test show it seems perfectly OK to keep your Lion-branded eggs outside the fridge.”
Where to start? One, as noted, it was a small sample. Two, is it really a problem to keep eggs in the refrigerator? They don’t take up that much space. So, why risk it? Three, the conclusion of bacteria free doesn’t make sense – the eggs could not possibly be sterile, there surely was some bacteria present. Fourth, egg production practices in the United States are different than in the United Kingdom.
Here is the back story. Prior to the early 1990s, fresh shell eggs sold in the U.S. were allowed to be stored at room temperature; however, emerging research at the time found this was causing increases in food borne illnesses. So, now FDA recommends refrigeration and lists fresh shell eggs as a food that is temperature controlled for safety. FDA makes recommendations only after reviewing lots of research – their recommendations are not based on opinions!
While the Daily Mail article included quotes from chefs expressing the virtues and advantages of cooking with unrefrigerated shell eggs (although specifics were not given, rather “they are better for cooking” was extent of details) there also was plenty of info provided by reputable scientific sources about the importance of storing eggs in the fridge.
Personally, I would go with the science based information. Indeed, that is role of our Extension and Outreach program at the university – to provide science based information to the public. There are many media outlets which can serve as a great way to get information out to the public but consumers should still carefully review and always consider the source of information. Fresh shell eggs at my house are stored in the refrigerator!